A workshop on the future of the Tonle Sap heard that a donor-funded conservation
project will need better participation from commune councils if it is to
Other problems highlighted at the April 8 meeting were the
effect of increased population pressures as more people move to the lake, and a
low level of awareness of the importance of the project.
director-general at the Ministry of the Environment, stressed the importance of
tying in the project with the plans of commune councils in the conservation
"The project should integrate with community development
policies," he said. "The commune councils' plans must consider how to develop
their socio-economic needs in conjunction with the environment."
alleviation was also key, he said, since poverty was the enemy of environment
preservation. Those with enough food had more incentive to protect their
Participants also discussed the thorny issue of who should
have control over the $15 million in project funding. Donors approved the money
in 1999, but it will only be released once the advisory committee finishes its
Ung Hokly from the Ministry of Agriculture,
Forestry and Fisheries said the ADB's $12 million loan should be under the
control of the fisheries department, while the $3 million UNDP grant should be
managed by the Cambodian National Mekong Committee.
Others suggested the
participants should concern themselves with moving forward with the project plan
rather than pointing fingers or trying to exercise control over the
"Today we must work together to develop our resources in the
Tonle Sap as soon as possible," said Ros Sirakhemarath, director of a human
resources NGO in Kampong Chhnang. "We are also responsible for what we are
Long Kon from the Department of Fisheries said the burden of
an increasing population would affect the resources of the Tonle Sap, the
richest freshwater fishing ground in the world.
He said more villagers
were moving to the area every year, particularly during the fishing season. Once
there, they cleared forest flood land for agriculture.
"If we do not
prevent the migration of the people to the Tonle Sap, we will be unable to
conserve the area's natural resources," said Kon.
Ouk Sithan, deputy
director-general at the Ministry of Tourism, said the Tonle Sap had many uses,
not least the potential for eco-tourism. He called for recommendations from
conservationists on how to promote eco-tourism without damaging the lake's
environment or natural resources.